immigration

These companies protested border policy on children but have contracts with Immigration & Customs Enforcement

Microsoft
REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen/File Photo

When it comes to trusting someone, you can’t just look at the words that they use.  It’s very easy for me to say one thing, but then turn around and do something different.  Every single day, we put trust into technology companies, because we base what they are going to do on their policies and what they say publicly.  Mark Zuckerberg, for example, has made some pretty great statements about what Facebook will or won’t do anymore, but the truth is – they’re still doing it.  Or they were doing it past the time when they said they had stopped.  So how can you trust or even believe technology companies?  Further, should you?

Over the last two years, we have seen a lot of tech companies come forward and speak out against Trump and any number of his policies.  And good for them – right?  I mean, the message they’re sending is that they don’t believe in his politics and they don’t’ stand with him.  In fact, some companies are quick to donate money to organizations that he rages against.  But we need to beware of wolves in sheep clothing.  Some of the world’s most prominent tech companies in the United States who have protested against Trump’s border policy on children, actually have contracts with the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Immigrants
Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

Before I go too much further, let’s talk about this from an ethical perspective.  Is it ok for these companies to provide a service to the U.S government, and not support what the cause?  I don’t really think you can separate the two.  Could you give money to Planned Parenthood and also be anti-abortion?  Again, I don’t think so.  Which is why it’s interesting to see the following companies have contracts with ICE:

  • Hewlett Packard Enterprises (HPE)
  • Thomson Reuters
  • Microsoft
  • Motorola Solutions; and,
  • Palantir

Not only that, but Dell’s federal system branch has more than $22 million in contracts with ICE.  HPE, which split from HP back in November of 2015, has a $75 million contract with the US Customs and Border Protection for the management of its network operations center.  Not to mention Thomson Reuters Special Services entered into an agreement valued at $6.8 million in March 2018.  This contract provides support to ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations unit’s “mission to locate, arrest, and remove criminal aliens that pose a threat to public safety”.

immigration

Microsoft has an Azure cloud computing contract in place with ICE, which helps with “deep learning capabilities to accelerate facial recognition and identification”.  This is kind of the worst, isn’t it?  I mean, Microsoft is handing the government software that’s almost making this situation worse. I mean, sure, they probably had the same contract under Obama, but he wasn’t tearing children away from their parents or locking them in concentration camps.  So yes, I think there is a big difference.  I’m also not suggesting that any of these companies should get out of their contractual obligations with ICE, but at the same time, I think they need to be more open with the public about the fact that they have these contracts.

Some could argue that just because they’re providing these services to the government doesn’t mean they support everything that they do – and that is one argument to make as well.  But when it comes to public perception, are they being honest?  The short answer is no.  Microsoft has taken a public stance against this particular policy of Trump’s, and maybe they can’t get out of the contract now, but they could make a pledge to not renew it.  Or at least admit that they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.  Hiding this, and keeping it in the shadows only makes it worse when it does come out.